Fun Lists

Intelligent Characters in Fantasy Books

“The letter had said to meet in a bookstore.”

First line in The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

Hi, guys. Another post for Wyrd and Wonder and for this one I’m focusing on the characters of our beloved genre. Specifically the smart ones. It’s one of those things that’s difficult to qualify because when is someone intelligent?
As someone who’s often appointed “the clever one” in friend groups, I’ve pondered that question a lot. There are many ways to be intelligent and by that, I don’t mean that people can be experts on different topics. In my opinion, it’s more about how you think, reason, problem-solve, etc. than how many facts you can list even though that’s part of it too.

To emphasize, I always find that Socrates quote inspiring:

The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.”

With that in mind, let’s look at some fantasy characters who embody what it means to be intelligent.

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)

Let’s just get the obvious one out of the way first. I think we can all agree that Harry would have died a lot sooner without Hermione as his friend. Voldemort would have defeated them all in book 1, and that would have been the end.
The great thing about Hermione is that she’s intelligent in so many ways. She’s at the top of her class every year and knows pretty much all there is to know about magic. Several times, she also proves her skills in general problem solving and deductive reasoning. Personally, I also appreciate the moments where she proves to be emotionally intelligent. She’s able to read other people’s emotions very well, and we often see her giving advice on that account. This is something she learns as the books go on, and it’s such a necessary skill when you’re friends with Harry and Ron.

Kvothe (The Name of the Wind)

Even though I’ve only read the first book in this series, it’s very clear to me that Kvothe is in love with knowledge. He seems to be willing to stop at nothing to learn.
Kvothe has several skill sets (which he won’t hesitate to point out to you) that make him highly intelligent in my mind. He understands the world’s complicated magic, he’s musical and he has impeccable survival skills. Even with limited resources, he’s able to rise in society and get what he wants anyway.

Quentin Coldwater (The Magicians)

Where to begin with Quentin? He might not be the most obvious entry on this list because his intelligence isn’t always at the forefront in this trilogy by Lev Grossman. He has his share of problems weighing him down but once in a while, we get a glimpse of his cleverness.
First of all, magic in this universe is far from easy and requires the user to be an expert on topics such as science and languages. And Quentin is one of the better ones. Throughout the books, you often find him trying to accomplish feats that very few other magicians have even tried. So even though he does fail once in a while, he also succeeds by taking an analytical approach to the problem.

Marasi (Mistborn: Second Era)

Marasi is badass for many reasons but most importantly because she’s smart. In her world, women still have to fight for their place in society and Marasi is one of the front runners. She’s one of the very few women who went to university, and so she’s very much what you would consider book-smart. However, that is not enough for her and throughout the series, we constantly find her on a quest for knowledge. Even when that might put her in danger. She loves to do her research and will approach a problem from any angle possible as a true university student.

Victor Vale and Eli Cardale (Vicious)

I’m cheating and grouping these two together (although they would probably kill me for that). The whole plot of this book revolves around the two of them taking a very scientific approach in their efforts to get… superpowers. They believe themselves able to crack the code and begin extensive research and dangerous experiments to succeed. They are highly confident in their abilities and with good reason. They are the top 2 students at their school and not to be messed with.

Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard)

It’s not the conventional type of intelligence you find in Locke Lamora but it’s what makes him the best at what he does: stealing. As a renowned con artist, Lamora is an expert when it comes to researching and planning a con. He pays attention to the smallest of details because he knows their importance. As a result of this, he’s often able to manipulate people into doing what he wants them to do, even if that is to willingly give their money to him.

Jasnah Kholin (The Stormlight Archive)

Jasnah is a scholar down to the bone. She’s the one who people around her rely on for information on pretty much anything. She’s known for being meticulous in her research of historic events and won’t accept a truth until she has definitive proof. One of her greatest strengths is her ability to engage in discussion with people she disagrees with. She realizes the potential these discussions have of giving her a new perspective to do research from. That is a great sign of intelligence: to recognize that you don’t know everything.

Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows)

Another entry that might not seem like the most obvious choice. However, don’t kid yourself into thinking that Kaz is stupid just because he lacks any kind of formal education. He grew up on the streets of Ketterdam and had to have a steep learning curve when it came to surviving. You can easily call him streetwise but Kaz is so much more than that. He’s able to manipulate both friends and foes in his efforts to execute his detailed plans. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to read people, meaning no one is able to lie to him without getting caught.

Tyrion Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire)

Finally, we have the political mastermind. Tyrion is not without flaws and you can question several of his decisions in regard to his personal life, BUT he knows how to talk his way out of a problem. He’s good with people. He knows the importance of good connections in times of trouble and uses those to protect himself. On the few occasions he’s given responsibility, he also proves himself able to rise to the challenge through scheming and talking.

That was 10 characters I highly admire. I always appreciate it when authors create smart main characters so I needed to celebrate the ones I already love. Feel free to write your own favorite smart characters in the comments. We can’t get enough of those. Happy reading!

15 thoughts on “Intelligent Characters in Fantasy Books

  1. This is a great selection! I love what you said about Hermione – she isn’t only book smart and I think that can sometimes be forgotten – and Locke and Kaz are two of my favourites, too. I’d never want to meet a con artist in real life, but man I love reading about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I really wanted to highlight that about Hermione to show that there are other ways to be smart. I think that’s really important to remember.
      I’m with you on the con artist love but only when they stay in the book. They just make interesting chararcters πŸ˜€


    1. Taravangien is an interesting choice. I don’t believe I’d read enough of The Stormlight Archive at the point of writing this that I felt I could include him. He definitely a unique character.


    1. Yeah, there’s nothing Kvothe can’t learn apparently (except maybe humility). I also found myself impressed with his tenacity because I’m someone who can become extremely invested in something for about two months and then my attention drifts πŸ˜…

      Liked by 1 person

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